Maple Ridge council pared down property tax increases for 2022 and 2023 at Tuesday’s council meeting.
With the cuts, it became the first budget in the four years of Mayor Mike Morden’s council to pass with the unanimous approval of all six councillors present.
The financial plan presented by staff called for residential taxes to rise 4.4 per cent this year and next, but council dropped that to 3.6 per cent in 2022 and 3.5 per cent in 2023.
Staff sharpened their pencils at the direction of council, after the tax rate bylaw and 2022-2026 financial plan were discussed a week earlier during committee work.
Each one per cent tax increase in Maple Ridge generates an additional $1 million in revenue, so the city needed to find $800,000 in savings this year to drop the rate from 4.4 per cent to 3.6 per cent.
Chief financial officer Trevor Thompson explained the city took $570,000 for parks recreation and culture out of the budget, because the city is conducting a parks and rec master plan process that is not finished.
The city had to fund an RCMP contract that makes up 1.6 per cent of the increase. The budget he presented to council on April 19 showed $800,000 spent this year and next, but council decided to take the full hit this year.
“We’re going to take it head-on, and provide the next council with essentially a clean start,” noted Mayor Mike Morden, adding that there had been “Very robust conversations over the last couple of weeks.”
Council found those funds elsewhere in Thompson’s budget – a 0.9 per cent increase for infrastructure replacement this year. However Thompson said that $850,000 can come from surplus, rather than taxpayers.
Also a drainage improvement levy for 0.1 per cent, or $95,000 has been paused. It was also taken out of future budgets in the financial plan. The plan calls for residential tax increases of: 3.5 per cent in 2024, 3.4 per cent in 2025 and 3.25 per cent in 2026.
Both Councillors Ahmed Yousef and Gordy Robson said this year’s is the first budget of the four-year term they can support.
On April 19, Robson asked staff why more of the financial burden wasn’t being placed on developers through development cost charges (DCCs) and Community Amenity Charges (CACs) to take the burden off taxpayers.
“We’ve been talking about it for over a year,” he said.
Thompson answered that work is underway, and charges are likely to increase substantially. Staff will propose CACs for apartments and townhouses rise from $3,100 per unit to $4,300 in 2022, and to $5,600 in 2023. Single family rates will go from $5,100 per house to $7,100 this year, then $9,200 in 2023.
Right now, CACs raise $2 million annually, and staff project that will rise by $1 million in each of the next two years.
On Tuesday, Mayor Morden spoke about the need to find funding sources other than residential property taxes.
“Primarily, residential taxpayers are pretty tapped, but we’ve got a lot of needs to meet within the community – millions and millions and millions of dollars worth of them,” said Morden.
“We’re not a small town anymore, we’re a big city now, and we’ve got various things we’ve got to tackle,” he added.
Coun. Chelsa Meadus said the budget is lean, and the increase could be a lot larger to meet all needs.
“We’ve tried to balance, and understand that the taxpayer right now, with inflation and coming out of a pandemic, is already really strapped.”
Judy Dueck said taking $800,000 out of this year’s budget delays spending that will be needed.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that engineering doesn’t hear about… they want new crosswalks, they want new traffic signals, they want sidewalks,” she said. “There isn’t a day that goes by that somebody doesn’t say we need more parks, we need more gathering spaces. It’s a lot of asks, but there’s only one taxpayer.”
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